The Friday Review; The Glass Lake, Maeve Binchy

** Whilst I truly thought this tale was heartfelt, beautiful and moving, I will be giving it a shockingly low rating for the errors, both grammatical and spelling, that occurred throughout the book. For those of you who follow my posts regularly, you’ll know that I recently set up my own freelance editing business (find it here) and I felt like this novel somehow skipped the whole editing stage. The edition I had of The Glass Lake was published in 1999, five years after the original publication in 1994. I will describe in more depth the full amalgamation of errors further below. **

The setting of this novel is in the small town of Lough Glass, which means the “glass lake”, in Ireland. The lake truly is the heart of the town: it is the habitat of an old nun, Sister Madeleine, who lives on the lake’s shores in a cottage, it is where Bridy Daley drowned many years ago, it is where the eschewed travellers live in their caravans and it is also the place Helen McMahon, mother of Kit and Emmet and wife of Martin, died. Helen is known as a ravishing beauty who married plain Martin, a chemist, because he loved her and she knew he would provide her with safety and protection. One night, Helen disappears and the only one that knows what happened to her is that magnificent lake. Martin McMahon’s boat is found upturned the following morning and a search begins for the beautiful Helen’s body. Kit discovers a letter from her mother left on Martin’s pillow, and she burns it, believing that her mother committed suicide and, if the note were to be found, Helen would be buried outside the cemetery for committing such a sin.

Kit and Emmet grow up and Kit slowly begins to understand what really happened to her mother that night four years ago. The book focuses on the relationship between a mother and her daughter and on secrets: secrets in marriage, friendship, companionship. The small town of Lough Glass is full of secrets and Sister Madeleine is the key to unlocking them all as she is the confidant of the town.

I really loved the characters in this book and the way Binchy portrayed them. They were all rounded characters who were, mostly, likeable and whom I felt sympathy for. The town they lived in seemed like a real place and I felt like I knew each of the inhabitants as a friend, or as if I myself lived amongst these people. In terms of the structure and the plot, I found it faltered a little bit between about pages four hundred and five hundred: perhaps the novel did not need to be as long as the 562 pages that it was. I was struggling to think where the plot could possibly go next. And the ending, the grand finale, all seems to happen in the last twenty pages and feels extremely rushed. Perhaps those hundred pages could have been taken out and the twenty pages at the end could have been expanded on. Overall I did really enjoy this book. I thought the characters were excellent and well portrayed, and I loved the relationship between London life and Ireland life, including the parallel narratives where coincidences were constantly joining the two together.

The grammar and spelling of my edition was a huge problem for me, however. I found it to be distracting and off-putting in my reading. I don’t just mean there were ten mistakes in the whole novel, but more like a hundred or so. And not small mistakes such as missing articles and use of tIMG_0378he singular instead of the plural but misspelt characters names and inconsistent character names. Emmet appeared once as “Emnet”, an easy mistake with the M and N on a keyboard being so close together, but it was a mistake that should have been picked up before publishing. The Millar’s name is also interchangeable with the other spelling, Miller. The two would change throughout the text which, whilst not a spelling error, is annoying and confusing. Other problems included “to far” instead of “too far” (see left), as well as so many other spelling errors that would be too many to list here. Perhaps a more recent edition would have all such errors removed. As I was reading, I tried to remember that Binchy is Irish and that the syntax of some sentences might be strange because they are not in a purely English dialect, but Irish. Regardless of this, the errors were not for this reason alone.

Unfortunately, for this reason, I will rate the book:

Overall rating: 2/5



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